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Lawsuit Blames Radiologist, 3 Years After Scan

September 18, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Diagnostic Imaging
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A woman is suing a radiologist and a gynecologist for not warning her that a negative mammogram and ultrasound didn’t absolutely mean that she didn’t have breast cancer.

Nancy Betz does have breast cancer, and it has metastasized to her liver, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Loudon County, Virginia. The cancer was discovered three years after the negative mammogram and ultrasound.

According to Courthouse News Service, Betz went to a Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group gynecologist, Joilyn Martin, MD, in 2009 because of thickening in the tissue of her left breast. Betz was 34 at the time. Radiologist Gary Gordon, MD, said a mammogram was “negative for malignancy” and an ultrasound showed “no evidence of a breast mass,” the lawsuit says.

Dr. Martin told Betz the test results were normal and did not recommend further monitoring, the suit says. As a result, it says, Betz had a false sense of reassurance that she did not have cancer. Tissue in her left breast remained thick, the lawsuit says. It adds:

However, plaintiff believed that the appropriate work-up had been undertaken to exclude malignancy and, therefore, did not complain further about it.

Three years after the 2009 mammogram, Betz noticed that the thickened area in her left breast was enlarging and becoming painful and that lymph nodes on her left side had become enlarged, the lawsuit says. She visited a second gynecologist and had another round of diagnostic imaging and a biopsy, it says. She received “a diagnosis of metastatic breast carcinoma, with liver involvement,” the suit says.

Betz blames Drs. Gordon and Martin for not telling her that the initial mammogram and ultrasound results, “while reassuring, did not definitively exclude the possibility of breast cancer,” the lawsuit says. It says that the alleged failure to fully inform Betz caused a delay in her cancer diagnosis, “adversely affecting treatment options, worsening her prognosis, and diminishing her life expectancy.”

Apparently, the lawsuit does not actually claim that Betz had cancer at the time of the 2009 mammogram and ultrasound, or that Dr. Gordon missed signs of cancer in reading those scans. Perhaps the doctors were supposed to say, “The mammogram and ultrasound show no sign of cancer, but it’s possible that you do have cancer that doesn’t show up on the scans, and even if not, you may develop cancer at any point during the rest of your life.”

Betz is seeking $2.1 million plus court costs and interest from Kaiser Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, Dr. Gordon, and Dr. Martin.

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Young women with cancer in one breast often have the other breast surgically removed as well, despite knowing that it’s not likely to help them survive, a new study finds. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 39.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits): Comprehensive Review of Breast Imaging

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